Mariazell, Styria, town in the district of Bruck an der Mur, town, alt. 868 m, pop. 1,947, place of pilgrimage, tourist resort and winter sports resort situated on a hill on the upper reaches of the River Salza, near the Lower Austrian border and Lake Erlaufsee, encircled by the Styrian and Lower Austrian ranges of the Limestone Alps (e.g. Bürgeralm Mountain). - District court, provincial hospital, youth hostel, indoor swimming pool. - Most important Marian shrine in Central Europe visited by pilgrims from Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia etc. - Was made a market town in 1342; granted its town charter in 1948. Mariazell started as a settlement set up beside a small monastery (Latin "cella") which was founded by Benedictine monks of the monastery of St. Lambrecht in the middle of the 12th century (probably in 1157). Parts of the church, which was made an official place of pilgrimage in 1330, were erected on order of the Hungarian king Ludwig I, e.g. the east choir (1330-1350), the nave (1359-1393) and the much revered Chapel of Miracles (around 1369). From 1430-1440 a Gothic tower was erected. This tower was preserved together with the nave that had already been redesigned in Baroque style and extended by two side chapels when the church was enlarged by D. Sciassia between 1644 and 1683. Interior decorated with 17th century stuccowork by Italian artists; high altar by J. B. Fischer v. Erlach (1693); the Chapel of Miracles houses a silver altar by J. E. Fischer v. Erlach (1727) on which pilgrims venerate the much revered miraculous representation of the Virgin in the form of a 47 centimetre high Early Gothic limewood statue dating from the second half of the 13th century. Apart from numerous votive offerings dating from the more recent past, the treasury on the south gallery contains a representation of the Virgin with Child (around 1370) that was given to the church by the Hungarian king Ludwig I in thanks for his deliverance from the Turks. On the galleries are numerous votive pictures of folkloric interest which were created between the 17th and the 20th centuries.
Around 1480 pilgrims from 16 different countries came to Mariazell. The miracles which had occurred there are depicted on the altar pieces of the Small Altar of Miracles (1512) and the Large Altar of Miracles (1519, now exhibited in the Joanneum, the provincial museum of Styria in Graz). From 1632 processions were held on a via sacra (pilgrimage path leading from Vienna to Mariazell) in which the Habsburg family actively participated. The majority of pilgrims who visited Mariazell came from the Habsburg lands and the regions of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. In 1757, 373,000 pilgrims attended the ceremonies held on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of the pilgrimage town. Since 1893 men´s pilgrimages from Vienna to Mariazell have been organized once a year. In 1908 Mariazell was awarded the title of "basilica minor". From 1975-1991 the mortal remains of the Hungarian Cardinal J. Mindszenty were buried at Mariazell. In 1983 Pope John Paul II visited this famous pilgrimage town on his tour of Austria.
Built over a spring, the Fountain Chapel (Brunnenkapelle, 1711) situated north of the basilica houses a Late Gothic statue of the Virgin. The presbytery (1693-1709) with its prelacy, its refectory and its two chapels (one of which is called Lamberti Chapel) is situated south of the basilica. There is also a war memorial which was created when the Gothic charnel house was redesigned in 1949. In front of the church visitors can admire two lead statues (probably created by B. Möll in 1757) which represent the Hungarian king Ludwig I and the Moravian margrave Heinrich. Numerous shrines have been erected in the vicinity of Mariazell, as well as along the various roads and paths used by pilgrims, e.g. the Chapel of St. Joseph housing three statues by L. Mattielli (1731), 15 Rosary Chapels (1650) along the road leading to the nearby village of St. Sebastian (with a church (by D. Sciassia, around 1650) containing a Gothic madonna, as well as a chapel with a larger-than-life lead crucifix created in Baroque style by B. Moll (1767)), the filial church of St. Sigmund (after 1443) situated on Sigmundsberg Hill near the municipality of Gußwerk, chapels and fountains along the roads to Graz and Seeberg Mountain, the Gothic parish church of St. Leonhard in the village of Seewiesen (consecrated in 1366). Pilgrimage road from Vienna to Mariazell via Maria-Enzersdorf, Heiligenkreuz, Alland, Nöstach, Hafnerberg, Klein-Mariazell, Lilienfeld, Türnitz, Annaberg and Josefsberg. Bürgeralpe Mountain (alt. 1,266 m) at the summit of which is a hotel that can be reached by means of a cableway; T- bar lifts. Since 1907 the narrow-gauge Mariazell Railway has linked the Lower Austrian town of St. Pölten with Mariazell and the municipality of Gußwerk.
Literature: O. Wonisch, Mariazell Großer Kunstführer, 1977.
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